Connie Yepez
Connie Yepez, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

ConnieYepez, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Belonging at the Center

You may have noticed that what we used to call equity, inclusion, and belonging is now, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging at BDS. While it would be easy to think of this as a small change, it’s important to note the why and the impact of adding “diversity” as an important element of the school’s approach to creating and cultivating community. If we begin by unpacking the meaning of each individual term, a clear vision of what it means to belong in a community emerges. 

Diversity. Simply put, this term describes the “who” of our community. What are the identities represented as we look at our students, parents/caregivers, faculty, and trustees? Ideally, we actively strive to have many identities represented in our school because we understand that being part of a diverse community adds value to our life and learning. It provides us with opportunities to see the beauty in our unique qualities and to celebrate our common humanity. This is why we choose to name diversity as an important element of our approach. Equity. This term means that we apply an identity-conscious lens to our approach and actions that enable every person to thrive. Being identity-conscious means that we understand that identity impacts our experiences and that people may need different types of support, access, and systems based on factors like race, gender expression, religion, ability, socioeconomic status, etc. Inclusion. At its core, inclusion is about ensuring that all members of our community are seen and heard. It means that the voices, perspectives, and needs of everyone are important and considered as we navigate daily life together. 

If we create a Venn diagram of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we can place belonging at the intersection–at the center. Belonging means that all members of our community feel seen, heard, and valued in a way that unlocks their potential and sets them up for success as fully engaged and integrated individuals. The collective impact for our students cannot be understated as having a sense of belonging creates a safe space where they can explore their identities, take risks, be innovative, think critically, and be empowered in their learning.

A few weeks ago, I spent time with our pre-kindergarten friends reading a book called, Shades of People. This prompted students to look at their own skin and draw connections to the images they saw in the book. The students delighted in comparing their hands to each others and we decided to take a picture of all of our hands together. This photo displays the range of shades that can be seen in this class and is a wonderful representation of the way we all made diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging tangible and meaningful for everyone in that space. It was just one way that we walk in our purpose together and create a foundation for connection, empathy, and celebration. Onward!

ConnieYepez, Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

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